A Christmas message

At this time of year, it’s inevitable we look forward to spending time with family, friends and loved ones during the holiday period. It’s a time to catch up with people you may not have seen for a while and inevitably reminisce about happy times gone by.

For those of us who have time off this time of year, I’m sure it will be a welcome break and a lot of fun, but I’d like us all to spare a thought for colleagues, many of whom may be working over the festive period. We’re all aware that Mersey Care is a 24/7 organisation and it’s simply not possible to shut down our services for a few days. We have responsibilities to care for our patients, carers and families, particularly at this time of year, so let’s all try and be sensitive to those of us who were unable to take time off and are maintaining Mersey Care’s high standards of care instead.

I think we can all agree it’s been another challenging year for this organisation, but what pleases me most as Chief Executive is the spirit of the staff. That was never better illustrated than last week, when many of you really supported Christmas Jumper Day.

I was based at V7 for most of that day and it was great to walk around the building seeing so many of you in festive knitwear. Your willingness to embrace such a fun campaign is an indication of the spirit and enthusiasm most of you show on a daily basis as this Trust continues to evolve.

Royal Approval

It’s customary at this time of year to reflect on the previous 12 months, and I make no apologies for doing so in this blog. Quite often when I sit down to write these types of blogs, I find it amazing myself to realise what we have achieved in such a short space of time.

Our progress as an organisation has been reflected by two important visits, firstly by HRH the Duke of Cambridge to officially open the Life Rooms Walton. The Prince has championed the cause of mental health through the Heads Together campaign he runs jointly with his brother, Prince Harry, and the Duchess of Cambridge.

His knowledge of the subject was evident during the hour-long visit where he met service users, staff and partner organisations and learned more about the concept of the Life Rooms. When I first arrived at the Mersey Care we discussed, as a Board, the idea of establishing a community hub and a base for our Recovery College.

Those initial discussions have grown into the Life Rooms, firstly in Walton and, earlier this year we were able to open a second Life Rooms in Southport. There are also plans to open a third in Bootle in partnership with Hugh Baird College, which will enable us to provide enhanced support for the mental health and wellbeing of young adults – a need that has been highlighted in the news recently.

The extra profile enjoyed by Life Rooms with the visit of Prince William is a reward for the hard work of the staff with over 16,000 people having visiting our Walton site in the last year, accessing facilities like an employment and enterprise hub and housing and community services for service users and carers.


Clock View

Another important visitor, this time to Clock View, was the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, who was very impressed with Mersey Care’s patient safety initiatives. He was also given a better understanding of what we are trying to do with initiatives like Zero Suicide, No Force First and the work we have done on segregation in high secure.

I believe that both these high profile visits are a compliment to the standing that Mersey Care now has nationally and are also an indication that mental health is no longer seen as a subject that is not discussed and is now an important part of the national health agenda.

Mersey Care’s reputation for innovation nationally would not stand up to scrutiny if, as an organisation, we did not take special care to make sure we do the basics right. By making patients, service users and carers a key part of our thinking and decision making, it gives us the energy and knowledge to innovate, approach practices differently and try and set new standards for healthcare.

That was reflected in the report by the Care Quality Commission into our services this year, who rated them as ‘good’ overall, which is an excellent indication of the commitment and dedication of our staff to maintain our rating in what has been another extremely busy year for the Trust. 

While I am extremely proud of all of you, there are a number of areas within the Trust that I would like to highlight that were singled out for good practice within the CQC report.

Ashworth High Secure Hospital received a prison service audit score of 100 per cent in the last year, the first time a high secure hospital had achieved such a score and, following the CQC report, I received a letter from the Secretary of State for Health, complimenting us on Ashworth’s good rating for safety, efficiency and leadership. That was particularly encouraging considering the type of care we provide in high secure services, which remains some of the most challenging in the healthcare system.

The achievement of our Specialist Learning Disability (SLD) Division in receiving ‘outstanding’ is equally eye-catching and all the staff deserve credit for such a transformation. Over three CQC inspections, the SLD Division has improved each time by learning and improving, which is something we pride ourselves on doing at Mersey Care. 

I would also like to make a special mention for the Local Division and the standards of care they continue to set. In this year’s CQC patient survey, Mersey Care’s community teams had the third highest levels of patient satisfaction in the country at 73 per cent, compared to a national mean of 68 per cent and in the CQC’s 2017 Community Mental Health Survey, this Trust was one of only three in the country where patients experienced care that was “better than expected.”

Mersey Care’s programme to reduce restrictive interventions was also singled out as good practice by the CQC, while their report also highlighted the introduction of our Just and Learning Culture across the Trust, which focusses on supporting staff and looking to find solutions rather than blame. We have already had one visit from Professor Sidney Dekker, the man who wrote the book on the subject, and he is returning in the New Year.


Zero Suicide Alliance

Jeremy Hunt MP was also present when, as one of the founder members, we launched the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA) at the Houses of Parliament last month. The ZSA is a collection of like-minded organisations who believe every suicide is preventable and want to develop a more joined up approach among services to ensure those at risk are identified and helped towards recovery.

It is an ambitious project but I want Mersey Care to be front and centre of this campaign. The ZSA has also launched a suicide prevention training course and those of you who have not already done so, can you please take 20 minutes of your time to do it – it might just help save a life.

Over the last year we have also continued to try and improve our estate, a process which began with the building and opening of a state of the art hospital for mental health patients at Clock View, giving them parity of esteem with the facilities on offer for physical health. 

We achieved that and more with Clock View hospital and we are excited about our plans to build a medium secure unit on our Maghull site that will set new standards for design and care. We are also well on course to build a new hospital in Southport and have further plans to build another on the site of Mossley Hill Hospital in south Liverpool. 

There were also significant changes to the DNA of Mersey Care in the last 12 months when we became the new provider for the South Sefton segment of Liverpool Community Health (LCH) in conjunction with Northwest Boroughs Healthcare, formerly 5 Boroughs Partnership. 

It meant that in addition to providing mental health and learning disability services, we have also welcomed physical health into the Mersey Care family. This Trust was also successfully chosen as the preferred new provider, subject to the approvals process, to deliver the LCH Liverpool Core services. If Mersey Care is approved, all the staff and services will transfer to the Trust on 1 April 2018, which will represent a giant stride towards our goal of continually improving care standards and providing a full care package looking at physical and mental health together.

This represents a massive change to our organisation, but just as we have successfully welcomed SLD Division, Talk Liverpool, South Sefton Community Services and Ambition Sefton into Mersey Care, all of whom are now regarded as tremendous additions to the organisation’s portfolio, I’m confident the skills and knowledge of our community staff will compliment the existing expertise and dedication within the organisation. 

It promises to be another challenging but exciting year and I want to thank each and every one of you for your hard work over the last 12 months. For those of you off over the festive period, enjoy your break and thank you to all the staff that keep our services running during this time of year. 

Joe Rafferty, Chief Executive